Q: Hello, Elizabeth, and welcome. First I’d like to ask a little about you as an author. Your bio mentions your love of sci-fi and fantasy, but also your love of M/M romance. How did your love of writing turn you toward romance in general, and M/M in particular? When you write futuristic romance, do you typically set your characters down in a world where same-sex love is considered within the norm?
A: Hi Lou, and most importantly, thank you for having me here today!
I really consider myself more of a sci-fi-action/adventure writer first and romance writer second. M/M appeals to me because of the emotional connection. It’s different between two men than a man and a woman, or two women. Men are, by nature, protectors and exploring how each one looks after the other is something I find fascinating and never ending. Sci-fi/action/adventure is a love of mine because there are so many aspects to explore in a world and situations to put the main characters in then add in how it affects each character personally and their relationship with one another. That is an intriguing mix.
I abhor bigotry in any form and I’d like to think sometime, hopefully in the not too distant future, it won’t matter what color someone is, who they sleep with or what religion they are. So, yes, I purposely put my men in a world where same-sex love and union is accepted and in the case of the Sentries series the norm, isn’t a big deal or the focus of the story.
Q: The two excerpts and blurbs you’ve shared with us are set in the far future. Though the apocalyptic event in one is natural disaster and the other disease, the characters in both live in “the world we know,” but dramatically and irreversibly changed. Is this the type of sci-fi you prefer writing? How do these worlds come into being? How extensive is your “world-building” process before you begin to set the story on paper? Does this type of setting make it easier for your gay couples be open about their love?
A: It’s a coincidence that the two stories are set in a post-apocalyptic world. While the future is my favorite place to write, not every world I’ve devised is a result of some disaster. No matter what sort of future I write in I try to create a world and society that evolved naturally from circumstances and events in its past.
My world building is pretty extensive, though I attempt to use those worlds as background. I don’t generally give out tons of information, but I know many details about how my worlds work. I have notebooks, maps and computer files of notes on what is in each world. I like sprinkling the details of future world throughout the story. Using alternate worlds is easier for me all around. I am working on one contemporary book and fitting things into the rules of our present world is hard. I like making my own worlds, in a way it’s because I’m lazy and making my own rules and settings are easier.
I purposely create worlds for my characters where the fact they’re in a same sex relationship isn’t an issue. That way I feel I can concentrate on the adventure part of the story and the relationship between the characters. I purposely want the emphasis off the fact the couples are gay and onto the emotions and interactions between the characters themselves.
Q: From the excerpts, your characters seem very human, and at least the main characters are likeable and easy to identify with. On the surface, though, the stories appear to be plot-driven—as though you had the world and the general story in mind first, and your characters were made (or born ☺) from that world, or to fit into it. Is that true? Perhaps you can share a little of your process for creating characters that the reader will become so strongly attached to.
A: The general idea for the situation comes first in most cases for me I think. Then I build a world and characters simultaneously around that initial ‘what if’ situation. Often times for me that situation is some small part of the story, or maybe one scene that I’d like to include and build the story around it. Sometimes it’s nothing more than a sentence.
In Marked Yours it was the idea of the two men having a distance relationship for most of their childhood before actually meeting. They grew up knowing they were promised to one another, but they still had a period of learning one another when they were finally together. For Strays I think the thing that stimulated the story was an image of a man hiding in an alley. Each book has a sort of theme. I might be the only one who knows what it is and I try not to ever come out and mention it, but I write around it and use it as a subtle guide for each story. I’m not even sure that makes sense.
Q: You set your loving couple in a master-slave relationship, in Marked Yours. Is this in particular a part of the romance, or erotic element, or Nick and Todd’s attraction to one another? Does your work always or often explore this as a romantic theme?
A: Nick is an actual slave, bought and paid for. He didn’t have a choice in being a slave or in who owns him. He does have a choice in what his part in their relationship is. Nick is actually a driving force in their relationship. Just like any couple their relationship is layered and complex, has its ups and downs. It easily could have gone in another direction, but the romance between them developed because each one wanted a deeper connection and like all people they wanted to be loved. I compared it to the arranged marriages, some became true partnerships and unions with the couple loving and caring for one another. Some did not. The owner/slave relationships in Marked Yours are not all the same. As the series progresses we learn people have slaves for many reason and there are equally as many types of relationships between an owner and his or her slave or slaves. I’ve tried to put a lot of gray areas into the owner-slave aspect of the book and series.
I do enjoy exploring the give and take of a D/s relationship and this was one way to delve into that sort of relationship. There was a lot of thought put into their (Nick and Todd’s) relationship and how it works. Even though one is owner and one slave, they each work to court and woo the other. They’re attracted to one another because years before they met in person they exchanged letters and had a process of getting to know one another in a small way. Each one wants something out of their life together and part of the story is how each approaches that life and attains what they want. The love and relationship develop because they are master and slave and thrives within that structure.
The majority of my works in some way show a D/s relationship and I try to show it in a healthy, loving way. What I find fascinating and a sort of turn on personally is the truly symbiotic nature of this kind of relationship. Doms (or owners) do not exist without a sub (or slave) allowing them to and visa versa. You simply can not have one without the other. In Marked Yours I took elements of a D/s relationship and integrated them into the society Todd and Nick live in and into their lives. The biggest example is Nick’s collar. To Nick it’s not something that signifies he’s some sort of captive or merely a possession. For him it shows the world he belongs to Todd, something Nick is quite proud of. It’s like a wedding band. He tells others how long Todd saved to purchase that particular collar and that it was specially made for Nick.
Q:Okay, this is my favorite question to ask an author, and this time I get to have two answers: In Marked Yours, is it Nick or Todd that you see as the sexiest? Why? Same questions for Kyle and Daniel in Strays—who’s the hottest? No fair saying “both.” As a little add-on this time, how steamy are these stories?
A: I’ll answer the steamy question first. The Sentries series in general is far steamier. Nick and Todd are young, healthy guys in love. They can’t keep their hands off one another. Being a part of a longer series any issues between them come about more slowly and there is more room for hotter scenes as their relationship grows and develops. Their life dictates they depend on one another and mostly only one another. They’re more secluded from the rest of the world and therefore interact more with each other than outside characters.
Daniel and Kyle don’t live in their own cocoon world as Todd and Nick do, so while they have just as much sex drive they are more like many working couples, too tired, too busy, different work schedules. Their story is shorter and more focused on problems between them, the resolution and how their love evolves. They are complete strangers to each other when the story starts, so there is more of a build up to the point of having steamy, sexy scenes. In the start Kyle is very traumatized by an event in his life and Daniel is more concerned with getting him over his trauma than getting him into bed. Once Kyle has healed Daniel’s concern shifts in a big way.
Now the harder question of who is sexier. That’s a tough one. Each of the four characters have qualities that make them very sexy but in different ways.
Todd is really a very devoted family man—with a small armory, the has-guns-not-afraid-to-use-them sort of guy. He’s tough and smart and nothing threatens what’s his, the ultimate protector. I wouldn’t consider him a bad boy, but he projects rough and hard on the outside and is really ooey gooey on the inside. One of his accomplishments is nurturing in Nick the parts of his personality that will allow him to grow into a more confident man. I think he’d be my top pick.
Nick is sweet and innocent and completely trusting of Todd who becomes his hero. He maybe a slave, but he’s not a pushover and he’s actually very much a smartass. As a partner he sees no one other than Todd, and doesn’t expect to ever have anyone else. To the outside world he’s painfully shy and Todd’s quiet shadow. In private and alone with Todd he’s anything but shy and quiet.
Now for Daniel, he’s a loner and the guy who is afraid of being hurt so he doesn’t put himself in that position. A different partner every night and never for the whole night is what he’s comfortable with. Both men and women do it for him as long as there are no strings, getting attached he has learned and seen only gets your heart ripped out. He is completely taken by surprise when he develops feelings for Kyle beyond lusting after a cute new face. Attachment and love for Kyle scares him silly because it’s so deep and so powerful. He’s the challenge, what’s not sexy about that guy?
Finally, there is Kyle. He’s young like Nick, but not as innocent, however he is inexperienced and at the start very vulnerable. He wants to please and be a success in life. Kyle isn’t afraid to embrace the radical change in his life forced upon him. He is one that makes lemonade out of life’s lemons. Fitting in and being a part of something worthwhile is important to him. This boy is a true survivor. One of his finest qualities is his capacity to forgive. I think I’d pick Kyle.
Hhm hmm! Elizabeth. You basically said they are all equally sexy. That may be true, but that’s cheating. Jus’ sayin’… (Pardon the interruption, now back to the interview for our final question.)
Q: What’s next, Elizabeth? Marked Yours was released by Dreamspinner Press in May of this year. When can your readers expect to see Strays? Is there a date, yet? Will there be sequels to either of these stories? What awaits for your readers in the next year or so?
A: Strays has a release date of September 7, 2011 and will be in eBook and audio formats. If it has a sequel I don’t know about it yet…lol But, I’m sure if Daniel and Kyle have more story to tell they’ll let me know!
Dreamspinner has accepted for publication the next in the Sentries series, Together Bound. I do not have a release date as yet other than sometime in September or October. Together Bound is a very different story than Marked Yours. Todd and Nick have been together for eighteen months at the start of the second book so their relationship is more established and solidified. They’ve moved beyond that fumbling around learning one another phase and Nick has become a full-fledged Sentry. They accept a job that launches them into the world of politics and has them hunting a very dangerous adversary. Not only do they have a job to do, but in the course of doing it they have to face some very personal, and frightening, issues individually and as a couple. This book also gives a look into different aspects of slavery. Two important revelations are what happens to a slave if the owner dies and what becomes of children of an owner/slave union? Nick has a very special ability which really comes into play in this book. By the end of the book their lives are turned upside down.
For the Sentries series I have a total of six books planned, and am working on the third, Chained Hearts now. One of the big reveals in Chained Hearts is why was it so important that Todd and Nick be together and were bonded as children? Beyond those are stories involving a return to the village Nick grew up in (Collared Souls) and riverboat gambling (Tethered Pair). Then of course the sixth book is the series wrap up, I’m still deciding on the title.
There is also a peek into the lives of Todd and Nick on their tenth ‘anniversary’ which is part of the Hot July Days challenge on the M/M Romance group on Goodreads. If you squint and pay extremely close attention you might see a very vague spoiler for the end of the series. The story is titled Take What’s Yours. There are no real spoilers for Marked Yours. In a month or two the kind mods of that group will put out a free anthology with all the stories they’re posting this month. That’s a great group, go now and join! Here is the link: http://www.goodreads.com/group/show/20149
I’m also working on a contemporary D/s monster hunting romance and I started a story for Dreamspinners pirate anthology—got the idea for that one from a scene in a movie with a plane almost crash landing and thought I must have a story for that! It got too big for the anthology, so I’ll eventually be submitting it for publication as a novel or novella.
It has been a delight to have you visit, Elizabeth. Thank you for coming.
Thank you for having me! I had such fun answering your questions, which were great by the way. I hope I didn’t “talk” too much.
(Elizabeth, you “talked” just enough! Thanks again.)